Yay, I’m pleased with where we’re heading, and how, every time I worry about possibly dragging out a budding conflict or potential complication, the show actually moves right along and progresses to the next phase. I don’t know if there’s an objective measure for what ideally paced plot is, but I do think this writer is completely in tune with my internal measure of what constitutes ideal pacing, which is why I continue to eat up these episodes. If not exactly crack-like in its pull, it’s at least akin to something sugary and gooey, with a dash of bittersweet.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
In Joseon, Dam-ryung sacrifices himself to save Se-hwa’s life, but then she takes her own. They die in each other’s arms.
These visions from Dam-ryung’s life are brought to the surface in Joon-jae’s hypnosis, and he awakens with tears running down his face. “I couldn’t protect her,” he tells his hypnotist professor. “In the end, because of me…”
The image of Se-hwa driving the harpoon into her chest flashes before his eyes, and Joon-jae clutches his own chest, wrought with guilt. The voices of young Dam-ryung and Se-hwa play in his mind, as she asks if he’d be able to remember their story. Dam-ryung promises, “Even if I’m reborn, I will search for you, and meet you, and love you, and protect you. I will remember.”
Joon-jae is hit with another wave of self-recrimination for forgetting the promise he’d made. “I was reborn, and she searched for me, and met me, and loved me, but I couldn’t remember anything. I only made her cry, and couldn’t protect her.”
While Joon-jae is in his session, Dae-young—a former patient of Professor Jin—opens the door, hanging back when he sees Joon-jae there. He eavesdrops as Joon-jae describes his visions, and how Dam-ryung had been his age when he died. The professor calls it a sad fate, and Joon-jae wonders why he and Chung were reborn and fated to meet again.
Professor Jin suggests, “If someone is reborn, might it be because they have an unrealized dream? That dream could be an unfulfilled love, or it could even be unsatisfied greed.” Well, that explains why Dae-young’s here.
Joon-jae asks why the bad fates have returned as well, and the professor asks, “Which of the two do you suppose is the real bad fate? The one between you and the one trying to kill you? Or the one between you and the one you love?” Uhh… I’m going to go with guy who wants to kill me. Are you sure you wanna listen to this guy?
Professor Jin adds that if Joon-jae and Chung had never loved each other, they would never have come to such a tragic conclusion. (Yes, but what if the killer hadn’t killed!) “Loving each other ends up killing each other,” the professor says. “Could there a worse fate than that?” He suggests that the only way to avoid the tragedy from reoccurring is to stop now and send Chung back to where she came from.
“No,” Joon-jae counters. “The fact that everything is repeating isn’t a curse, but an opportunity—to change the ending.”
Dae-young leaves unseen, this new information bringing a relieved smile to his face.
As Joon-jae drives home, he replays his professor’s last concerns in his mind. Still, Joon-jae had said there had to be a reason he remembered everything, and vowed to protect Chung this time.
He bursts into the house and, upon hearing that Chung stepped out, runs right back out. She’s at the neighborhood toy crane machine, failing again to win a pink octopus. Joon-jae runs up to her and grabs her in a bear hug.
Chung asks if he had a bad dream, and he replies that he’s dreamed them all and won’t have any more. And this time when he looks at her face, he sees the past versions of Se-hwa in it.
Then Joon-jae suggests that they do everything Chung wants to do. She thinks about it, then proposes that they go through “empty formalities and rituals,” which were Homeless Fashionista’s way of describing the dating game. Chung informs him about the three stages of love—romantic love, hot love, dirty love—and how they’re currently in the romantic stage. “But everything is heading toward dirty love,” she informs him solemnly. I’m dying at how seriously she’s taking that advice.
She is still curious to know what dirty love entails, but remembers Fashionista warning that attempting it badly could backfire on her. “So let’s enjoy the empty formalities for now,” she says.
I suppose Joon-jae’s still rattled by his revelations, because he’s sweetly earnest as he agrees to do “the things everyone else does,” and leads her away by the hand.
First on their date course is food, where they feed each other in such a display of affection that others look at them in disgust. Then they draw a crowd at an arcade with their prowess at couples DDR.
On to a revival screening of Titanic, which Chung sobs loudly throughout the whole thing, leaving the ground scattered with pearls for the cleaning lady to find afterward.
At a cafe next, Joon-jae asks Chung what she thinks about the hero in the movie dying to save the heroine, and what she’d do if he, purely hypothetically, did the same. “I’d have to follow you,” Chung replies without hesitation. He chides her for not giving the question enough thought, but she just says, “If we live, it should be together, and if we die, it should be together.”
He sighs, pointing out that it negates the man’s sacrifice, and reminds her of Jack’s last plea to Rose about surviving, living a full life, and growing old happily.
“Heo Joon-jae, would you do that?” Chung asks. “If I were gone from this world, would you meet a nice woman and grow old happily?” He takes a moment to answer, but says, “Yes. I should, obviously.”
She doesn’t like that, but he tells her that if anything were ever to happen to him, she should live happily, without giving up. The morbid talk unnerves her, and he says it’s just a what-if scenario. Still, he wants her promise to live on without him.
Chung won’t make it, though, saying that it feels like it would be inviting something bad to happen to him. She doesn’t budge, and the drive home is tense and quiet, a mood they carry into the house with them.
Joon-jae pulls Tae-oh aside abruptly, and Nam-doo asks Chung curiously if anything happened between them. Hearing about Joon-jae’s “If-anything-happens-to-me” scenario, he nods knowingly, interpreting this as an indication of cooling affections, now that their three-month honeymoon period is winding down. He warns Chung that she could be headed on the road to breakup if she doesn’t handle things well.
Chung protests that Joon-jae’s not like that, but Nam-doo says that Joon-jae is exactly like that, and has never been with a girlfriend longer than three months. Miffed, Chung lets her coat whack him in the face as she stalks off.
Joon-jae directs Tae-oh to up their security and report any disturbances to him. Tae-oh asks if it’s because of Dae-young, and Joon-jae’s look hardens.
Dae-young returns to Professor Jin’s office, and informs him up-front that he saw Joon-jae earlier and that it’s no use lying. He wants to undergo the same kind of hypnosis to see how his past life ended, believing that the key to understanding his current life: “Ever since birth, I’ve felt like living was a punishment.”
We aren’t shown the hypnosis, but when Dae-young rouses from it, he’s hit with a realization. “It wasn’t me,” he says. He wasn’t the one to kill the lovers, and the professor asks who did.
Annnnd then we cut to Chi-hyun, leading an army of executives into a board meeting. No, not you, Chi-hyun! I had hopes for your inner good nature!
Chi-hyun assumes leadership of the company in his father’s stead, which makes the other board members fidget uneasily and ask after Chairman Heo’s health. Chi-hyun lies that his father is ready to step down, coming out strongly enough that the visibly worried executives keep quiet. He gives them the chance to leave if they are unable to work under him, but nobody makes a move.
When Chairman Dad awakens in his hospital bed following his tumble down the stairs, Chi-hyun is at his bedside to assure him that he’s on the mend. Dad worries about his worsening eyesight, but Chi-hyun says that undergoing eye surgery so soon after this accident would be too much for him.
Dad asks if Chi-hyun is in contact with Joon-jae, and Chi-hyun says that he told him about Dad’s accident—Joon-jae must be very busy not to come see him. Aw, why you being so snakey? I’m sad.
The mutual silent treatment continues between Chung and Joon-jae, and as she watches TV, she mentally mutters curses at Joon-jae. She berates herself for being too naive and now resents all the effort she took in swimming all the way to Seoul.
Joon-jae chafes at her complaints and tells her to cut it out, saying that he knows she was cursing him in her mind. She just complains about him being perceptive and continues her internal grumbling, adding that she thought Joon-jae was the only good-looking guy in the world until she saw the TV filled with them.
Joon-jae barks at her to quit it, and Nam-doo comes out tsk-tsking their spat. Joon-jae orders Chung to stay home today, to which she retorts that she has plans. Nam-doo praises her firm stance, but while Chung doesn’t consider his warning of a Misery scenario (obsession, confinement) a drawback (of course she wouldn’t), he says that’s why her honeymoon period is wearing off.
Joon-jae visits Manager Nam in the hospital, who is awake but unable to speak. Joon-jae offers to share an unbelievable story with him, and explains how Ajusshi was his good friend even in a long-ago past, always on his side. In this lifetime, Ajusshi was born just a little earlier, to be there for him when he was a child.
He promises to find the culprit who did this to Ajusshi, asking him to blink twice if the man pictured on his phone (Dae-young) is the villain. Ajusshi blinks yes. Joon-jae asks if Ajusshi suspects that someone in their midst is connected to Dae-young, and Ajusshi blinks yes again.
That’s when Chi-hyun shows up, and adopts a false concern as he apologizes for whatever he said over the phone when he was drunk (he’d warned Joon-jae to protect his father, calling it his last act of consideration). He lies that Dad’s health is much better, and that he put Chi-hyun in charge of all his work and went on a vacation.
Then he adds that Dad revised his will to leave nearly everything to Stepmom and Chi-hyun, ignoring Chi-hyun’s entreaties to reconsider. Joon-jae retorts that he can handle hating his father all on his own, without Chi-hyun adding any fuel to that fire. “If you keep at it like this, it seems like you have some kind of motive,” Joon-jae says pointedly.
Then Chi-hyun asks after Chung, which makes Joon-jae stiffen. Chi-hyun asks him to pass along his greetings to her, and at Joon-jae’s hostile reply, he shrugs, “Or not, if you don’t want to.”
Shi-ah mopes in bed, and starts to text Joon-jae about finding his mother before deciding against it. Joon-jae’s mother brings her porridge in bed, and Shi-ah is back to her hilariously deferential mode, trying to earn back some points she lost with all her brattiness before.
And then, she grabs Mom in a back hug, saying, “I wanted to do this once.” Astonished Mom says it makes her uncomfortable, and Shi-ah apologizes again.
Her behavior is so out of the blue that Mom thinks Shi-ah must be quite unwell to act so strangely, although Jin-joo replies that Shi-ah was never normal. Heh, true.
Hearing Jin-joo mutter about Joon-jae’s Stepmom, who’s still ignoring her, Mom hesitantly asks after that family’s son. Jin-joo relays the gossip she knows: that the son working under the chairman is Stepmom’s child, and that the chairman’s biological son ran away ten years ago. That’s a fact Ajusshi has kept from her over the years, and she’s horrified to hear it now.
Mom gets up to leave right away, and Shi-ah offers to handle her duties for the afternoon and babysit the kids. (She also tries to awkwardly call her both Mom and Housekeeper and ends up with Momkeeper, ha.) Then when Jin-joo complains that Mom’s getting lax, Shi-ah jumps to her defense and even chides her for calling the housekeeper “ajumma,” saying that these days it’s not unusual to call them “mother” instead, when they live together and eat together. Then Shi-ah recalls that Mom has been washing her undergarments all this while and wails in mortification.
Mom makes her way to the Heo family house, recalling the day she’d left it as the discarded first wife. She’d run into Stepmom and Chi-hyun on their way in, and Stepmom had said she didn’t intend for this to be the outcome. Mom had told her she had to believe her: “You have to raise our Joon-jae now, so I will be hoping you’re a good person.”
Stepmom had asked Mom to stay away from Joon-jae, to allow the new family the chance to bond, and had promised to raise Joon-jae with love.
Now, a fuming Mom skips the pleasantries and demands to know where Joon-jae is. Stepmom is quick to absolve herself of any blame, saying that Mom should look after her son and that Joon-jae left on his own. Mom asks if that’s the real reason Stepmom kept her away—so she could steal away everything for herself.
Stepmom retorts that Mom gave it all up herself: “If it were me, I wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t leave my son and run away. Just because you were told not to meet him, you really didn’t meet him? Are you an idiot?” Okay, so Stepmom’s evil but I can’t argue that she doesn’t have a point there.
Mom just gets angrier and uses Stepmom’s old name (Kang Ji-hyun), and vows to return her son to his rightful place: “And I’ll send you to your original place too.”
Stepmom is a bit rattled by the threat, but quickly gets on the phone to put in a call.
Mom walks listlessly down the road, not noticing a passing car coming dangerously close. At the last moment, Chung whirls Mom out of harm’s way, chiding her to pay more attention to cars. Turns out that she and Mom have a grocery-shopping date, and Chung leads her away.
A car stops nearby, its driver rolling down his window to stare after Chung—only to have Tae-oh step in and snap his photo, per Joon-jae’s instructions for him to follow Chung wherever she goes. It’s an order Tae-oh was happy to accept, and Joon-jae had grumbled at him to not let his ears go pink over it, hee.
At the grocery store, Mom gives Chung tips for picking the freshest foods, although Chung doesn’t need her help in knowing the fish aren’t very fresh here—she’s used to much fresher. Tae-oh snaps photos of their market date and sends them to Joon-jae, who lingers on the obscured image of Mom, although he can’t make out much of her face.
He’s at the police station to check out Dae-young’s psychological records, and Detective Hong asks if he knows the name Kang Ji-hyun, explaining that she’s the only link that could trace back to the criminal. Joon-jae doesn’t know the name, but speculates that the woman or the child suspected to be theirs could be covering up his tracks now.
Joon-jae takes the file, saying that Nam-doo’s better at locating people than any detective, which nearly gets him whacked on the head. And it’s now that Joon-jae recalls Dam-ryung’s faithful subordinate in Joseon, and smiles to recognize that he’s Detective Hong. He gives the man a friendly pat on the arm and says he’s a decent guy, which totally creeps out the detective.
Joon-jae recognizes Professor Jin’s name in the file, and that sends them back to his office. The professor is open about having treated Dae-young in the past, but lies that he hasn’t been by recently—although Joon-jae spots his finger tapping nervously.
Chung walks Mom back after their shopping trip, and puts two and two together: This is where Shi-ah lives, which explains the guys’ reactions when they tried to scam the family here and retreated suddenly.
Tae-oh snaps a picture of Mom before heading off after Chung… only to have Shi-ah pop up with a knowing smile on her face. Tae-oh stammers that whatever she’s thinking, that’s not it, which she doesn’t buy for a second. She thinks he’s taking pictures of her gate just to feel close to her, and tells Tae-oh that there’s no room for him in her heart. (“There doesn’t need to be room,” Tae-oh mutters under his breath.)
Then Tae-oh realizes that he’s lost sight of Chung and runs after her, which makes Shi-ah think she hurt his feelings. Heh. You can knock her down, but that ego will break her fall.
Chung is surprised to find Chi-hyun waiting for her outside the house, and he offers to carry her bags in.
Joon-jae and Detective Hong leave the professor’s office together, but Joon-jae turns back to ask something one-on-one. Without the detective present, Professor Jin admits that Dae-young came by yesterday, wanting to see his former life’s last moments. He’d said he didn’t kill Dam-ryung and Se-hwa, but didn’t say who the culprit was. The professor reminds Joon-jae that fate isn’t easily changed, and advises him again to let Chung go.
Joon-jae asks Professor Jin to alert him when Dae-young returns, then gets a text from Tae-oh apologizing for losing his tail on Chung. That has him anxious to find her before Dae-young does, and he hounds Detective Hong to drive faster.
He’s frustrated that Chung doesn’t answer her phone, and we see that it’s because she’s stepped aside; she’s out to eat with Chi-hyun, and he surreptitiously turns the phone off while she’s not looking. He fishes for information, like how long she’s lived with Joon-jae and whether they’ve been alone the whole while. She says they live with friends, and Chi-hyun says to himself, “That’s a relief.”
Dae-young mulls over the memories his hypnosis revealed, which we now get to see for ourselves: Back on the boat, Lord Yang had thrown his harpoon and missed hitting Se-hwa. Moments later, another man had thrown the harpoon that would have hit her, which Dam-ryung intercepted with his body. The man’s face remains tantalizingly out of focus, but he does wear a ring on his right hand.
Joon-jae arrives home just in time to run into Chi-hyun and Chung, and tersely addresses his stepbrother before pulling Chung into the house. She interprets his dark mood as him being angry with her, and he doesn’t contradict her, just walking away quietly.
Nam-doo chides her for fighting again, but can’t hide his smile—he must be itching for the old Joon-jae back. Chung finds it strange that Joon-jae would be upset that she met his brother, and Nam-doo says that a man not wanting a girl to meet his family indicates that he doesn’t intend to stay with her long-term.
But then Nam-doo registers what she just said and is surprised that Joon-jae had a run-in with Chi-hyun, because he thought Joon-jae was estranged from his whole family. Nam-doo hasn’t even met them, and he’s surprised that Chung has gotten the official introduction. Ha, who’s the outsider now?
That night as Chung readies for bed, she’s hit with a sudden chest pain. She clutches at her heart and wonders why it’s happening, just as Joon-jae enters his room and hears her thoughts. Is it because I haven’t been in the water in so long? she thinks. What do I do?
So Joon-jae orders the boys out of the house for the day, ignoring their protests and shoving them toward the door. He says loudly for Chung’s benefit that nobody will be home all day.
The boys grudgingly head off for the day—but then, Nam-doo pauses to look back at the house, and I don’t like that look in his eye…
Chung avails herself of the pool, swimming around happily—and then looks up to see Nam-doo standing in the doorway. Ohhh crap. What has he seen?
It doesn’t seem like he’s noticed anything amiss, and he just asks if she isn’t cold to be swimming in this weather. He steps closer and stubs his toe on a lounge chair, and then looks over to see the full view of Chung’s mermaid tail. His brow furrows in confusion, and she anxiously waits for his reaction.
But Nam-doo laughs it off, thinking that she’s practicing to be the aquarium mermaid, and chides himself for momentarily thinking something crazy. He marvels at the quality of the costume—and then is hit with all the strange things about Chung that hadn’t added up at the time, like her crazy-fast healing time and the pearls she’d said she made.
“It can’t be,” he says. But the look on his face grows serious, and he vacillates between amazement and uneasiness as Chung leaves the pool and turns back into her two-legged form. Chung’s biggest concern is whether he’ll tell Joon-jae, and Nam-doo says it depends on how she answers his questions. So she confirms how the legs-on-land thing works, and that the pearls are from her tears.
“Then cry,” he urges her, wanting to see for himself. Man, I do not like that manic look in his eye, and neither, it seems, does Chung. Nam-doo gets excited about this “pile of money” they’re sitting on, undeterred when Chung says she doesn’t care for that. Full of get-rich schemes, he proposes launching a mermaid show in Vegas, assuring her that he’s not selling her out but giving her a job.
“Okay,” Chung agrees, suddenly smiling as she extends a hand. Nam-doo cautiously clasps her hand to shake on it—and the moment their hands touch, something happens. The scene rewinds until just before his discovery of her in the pool, and the last few minutes erase from his memory. Aha, so is the mermaid kiss just a figure of speech, and not necessarily a kiss?
Nam-doo comes back to the moment in a haze, repeating the same words about her being cold in the pool and stubbing his toe again. He walks away without further ado, and Chung wonders if Joon-jae would react in a similar way if he discovered her truth. “Should I have asked him first, then erased his memory?” she asks herself.
HAHA, cue Nam-doo finding her in the pool again, stubbing his toe, asking the same questions again and going through the exact same reaction. This time, Chung asks if Nam-doo would treat her differently now, and he readily admits it. She asks if Joon-jae would feel the same way, and Nam-doo exclaims that Joon-jae’s reaction would be more extreme and would run away for sure.
“Then I can’t let him find out,” Chung says. “But it’s too late,” Nam-doo replies, “because I found out.”
Chung laughs, offers a handshake, and says sorry. Nam-doo’s eyes go slack as his memory wipes, and he sits in a daze the rest of the day.
At dinner, he says with frustration that he keeps thinking he’s on the verge of a memory, and Chung asks herself, Does he remember? Joon-jae shoots her a look as Nam-doo keeps complaining and Chung worries that the erasure didn’t work fully.
Then Nam-doo exclaims that the memory is coming to him, and he points over at the patio: “The pool in this house… Chung was…”
But Joon-jae slaps him upside the head, saying that it’s probably early dementia brought on by drinking, and Tae-oh nods his agreement. Haha. Chung catches Joon-jae looking intently at her, but when he breaks the look and ignores her, she takes that as yet more cold shoulder, feeling hurt.
She pulls him aside after dinner to ask how much longer he’s going to avoid her and not meet her eye. Joon-jae asks his question one more time, but before he even gets past “If something were to happen to me,” Chung cuts him off to say her answer will always be the same: “If something happens to you, I can’t live.”
In exasperation, he asks why. She starts to reply, “That’s because…” but the rest of the thought is only finished internally:
Chung: My heart can only go on if you love me. On land, my heart is terminally ill. If you leave me or this world, my heart will stop. That’s why Jung-hoon [Jo Jung-seok] died. The person he loved left, and his heart froze and hardened and stopped. If you are gone, that’s what will happen to me. If I don’t return to the sea, I’ll die.
That’s a stunner of a revelation. Joon-jae’s head whirls, and he asks in shock, “You’ll die?”
He tells her to repeat what she just said, but she’s confused, not having said a thing. He prods, “What will stop and harden—and become what?”
“You can hear my voice?” she realizes, asking how much he’s heard, and for how long. But he’s so agitated that he keeps pressing for answers, practically yelling, “Why would you die?!”
It’s all out in the open now! At least barring any more mermaid handshakes or kisses to set ourselves back a few steps, which I would hate but am not too worried will happen. And speaking of handshakes, I found Nam-doo’s reaction to Chung’s identity entirely within character, and it made sense to me that he’d assume Joon-jae would run, since before Chung, that was pretty much his M.O. (And as a side note, I was relieved to have Nam-doo shown to be mercenary at worst; I’d really worried he might have a more pernicious streak in him. For now, at least, that fear is at bay.) I also found Chung’s response to his prediction understandable, and was initially worried we’d be in for another bout of misunderstanding while she tried even harder to keep her identity a secret, and am thus glad to be moving on to the next phase with this discovery instead.
I can’t deny that I’ll miss all the comic moments that have been (and still could be) mined out of Joon-jae reading Chung’s thoughts, which I found hilarious and sometimes very sweet. But I’m also fine to move on, because I didn’t want to spend too much more time with Chung’s apprehension about Joon-jae’s reaction to finding out, especially since we already know how he did react. There’s not much to be gained for leaving Chung to labor under a misconception for much longer—it’s much more interesting to progress to having her actually witness his reaction too. I definitely enjoyed seeing how readily he accepted the truth of her identity, and have been wanting her to know what we’ve known all this while and feel validated by his love.
I don’t necessarily think she loves him less than he loves her (or maybe I think it just a little?), but I do feel like ever since Joon-jae found out the backstory, their emotional trajectories have been on diverging paths: Hers is still in the fluttery, early-stage “Does he like me or not?” worries, which gives it a cute, real-life sort of feel. It’s a little ordinary, while also being completely extraordinary given the supernatural element. On the other hand, Joon-jae’s emotions feel like they’ve been deepening and intensifying; he’s already dived all-in and fully committed to her in two lifetimes, but she doesn’t know it yet.
There’s humor in that setup, but I’ve been wanting to have them on the same wavelength, so that the communication goes both ways. He has had the unfair advantage, and I can’t hold it against him since he hardly asked to be given the window into Chung’s heart, but it does keep her out of the loop a little. And it’s her own loop! I find it interesting that her reactions in the relationship have been the more light-hearted, especially since it’s not like she isn’t also confronting some heavy issues—she’s the one with the expiration date! But now that they both know, it feels like we can give their love a chance to grow together, rather than separately.
Knowing how he accepts her nature would also help her understand the real reason for his frustration and avoidance, because I can see how his recent behavior feels like a rejection for her but can also understand why he feels upset about her essentially negating the sacrifice that may be in his fate. He’s seen it literally unfold before his eyes, so it’s not an empty fear. But hey, won’t it be easier to protect someone who knows they need to be protected?